As a dancer stands on the floor at the Denver Turnverein, a look and a small nod is all it takes to find a partner for the milonga —an open floor for Argentine tango dancers. At Tango Colorado, …
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Argentine tango developed in the 1800s in Buenos Aires. The dance style was influenced by regions from around the world. People dance the tango in pairs, either in a closed or open embrace. Close embrace dancers lean together, often touching heads.
One partner leads the other across the floor in a clockwise fashion, often improvising to the music. Followers rarely have weight on both their feet at the same time. John Gardner, the president of Tango Colorado, said the dance is similar to walking.
Tango Colorado, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the Argentinan style of dancing, hosts milonga nights every Tuesday at the Denver Turnvererin, 1570 Clarkson St.
The milonga is an open dance floor, where people dance in pairs, moving clockwise.
Before the milonga, hour-long tango lessons are offered for $10, starting at 6:45 p.m. There are two levels of beginning classes and an intermediate class. The fee also includes the open floor time — for novice and master dancers alike — which starts at 7:45 p.m. and goes until 10:30 p.m. Dancers pay $10 at the door for the milonga on its own.
Tango Colorado also offers classes at the Mercury Cafe in Five Points at 2199 California St. and in Boulder and Colorado Springs.
On Memorial and Labor Day holidays, Tango Colorado has a free lesson and milonga session at the Pavilion in Cheesman Park, at 1900 E. 11th Ave. The lesson starts at 5 p.m., with the milonga following at 6 p.m.
For more information, contact John Gardner, president of Tango Colorado at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The fashion behind Argentine tango is an imporant element to the dance. Xiaoli Quispe, treasurer of Tango Colorado and longtime dancer, said that not only are the shoes beautiful, they also serve a purpose on the dance floor.
“It’s well designed for the woman to be completely on the ball of her foot,” she said. “Every pair is a work of art.”
Most shoes are imported into the United States, Quispe said. Many are also handmade and can be an expensive investment because of that. JuliaBella, a Virginia-based shoe store, sells tango shoes made in Argentina. Pairs there range from $135 to $230. Dancers must do a lot of research on shoes beforehand to ensure they are getting a shoe that properly fits while dancing.
As a dancer stands on the floor at the Denver Turnverein, a look and a small nod is all it takes to find a partner for the milonga —an open floor for Argentine tango dancers. At Tango Colorado, dancers take to the floor on Tuesday nights, looping in pairs across the dance floor.
The milonga, dancer Rose Vehill Dale noted, is as much an opportunity to dance as it is to observe other people on the floor.
“If you don’t feel like dancing a lot,” she said, “it’s so great to just watch.”
Vehill Dale is one of the many dancers who take advantage of the Tuesday-night tango lessons at the Turnverein, a historic building in Uptown that has transformed into a dancing mecca, welcoming dancers of all styles — swing, ballroom, Zumba, the Argentine tango and more — every night of the week.
Jose Carranza has spent 56 years in Denver. He began teaching tango in 2003, but first started listening to tango music in the ‘50s. He learned to dance the tango the way the music made him feel. Although he enjoyed many dance styles, he decided to focus on tango.
“I used to dance everything, and I dance everything still,” Carranza said. But “I decided I wanted to be good at one thing instead of mediocre at everything.”
For Carranza, a place like the Turnverein helps him to spread his passion for tango through teaching.
On Tuesday nights, the tango brings about 120 dancers to glide across the Turnverein’s wooden floor and lose themselves in the smooth rhythym of the music.
“Tango,” longtime dancer John Gardner said, “is a beautiful game of balance and connection between two people.”
Gardner is president of Tango Colorado, a nonprofit dedicated to the Argentinian style of the dance form, which has called the Turnverein at 1570 Clarkson St. home since it was founded in 1996. The original small community of 30 Argentine-style dancers has since grown to more than 500 active dancers from around the state. Besides the Tuesday milonga nights at the Turnverein, the organization also offers lessons at the Mercury Café in Five Points and other locations throughout Colorado.
Gardner describes learning to tango as similar to walking. Leaders direct followers where to go and both shift their balance from leg-to-leg through the steps. Partners need to trust each other to keep that balance. Argentine tango also has several different styles, including open and close embrace. Close-embrace dancers stand tightly together while dancing, leaning in their heads.
Husband and wife Jorge and Xiaoli Quispe can often be found on the floor Tuesday nights dancing the close embrace style of tango. As Xiaoli leans her head against Jorge’s, she closes her eyes, sure in her trust that Jorge will lead her across the floor.
“It’s trust and sharing a comon love for the music,” Jorge said.
Xiaoli first came to Colorado from Dallas in 2011 to participate in one of Tango Colorado’s bi-annual tango events at the Pavilion in Cheesman Park. She is now treasurer of Tango Colorado, and owns her own CPA firm. Jorge works as a software developer.
The pair met in Dallas when Jorge was in town on a business trip and he decided to visit the local tango venue there. Xiaoli and Jorge have traveled the world performing tango, but said the community here is more diverse and tight-knit than in other places.
Jorge grew up dancing tango in his native Peru, but has been dancing in Colorado for 10 years. At Tango Colorado, he said the community is small, but it makes sure that everyone is welcome.
“As soon as a new person comes we get to know each other,” he said. “Tango is just a tool for the social aspect.”
Vehill Dale didn’t expect to become entrenched in tango when she joined a class at Tango Colorado five years ago. Her goal then was to learn more about partner dancing for her ballroom classes. But all it took was one class, she said, and she was hooked.
“You go and the music takes you to a different place,” she said. “You blend into it, you melt into it and you’re just in a different place.”
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